MySpace is Moving in the Wrong Direction

The other day in the wake of all the stories, introductory videos and conversations about the (8th?) relaunch of MySpace, this time with the backing of superstar Justin Timberlake I finally coalesced my thoughts on Twitter. 

Screen shot 2012 09 28 at 4 08 35 PM

I didn’t want to hate on it just for the sake of doing so or in some sort of attempt to seem too cool for old school or anything like that. The comment came from a legitimate concern that the kind of user MySpace seems to be targeting simply doesn’t exist anymore. 

Look at the results of a recent Pew study about behavior on social networks: 

Pew’s study showed a shift in the way people use social media. Posting original photos and videos online ranked slightly ahead of sharing content from other people, with 46 percent of respondents who said they had created content and 41 percent who said they had curated it.

There’s clearly a trend line that shows there’s more curation happening on social network, with production of original material declining as a result. But the new MySpace seems to be specifically built around the idea that people are producing tons of flashy videos and photos. So while a professionally produced music video may look super in that environment, someone’s photos from a frat party that’s been busted up by the cops will look just as trashy there as anywhere else. 

(Incidentally, I saw more than one person say something along the lines of “The new MySpace design makes Facebook look like MS-DOS,” an analogy that I’m not sure anyone either network is trying to attract would even recognize. People born the year Windows 95 came out started driving last year.)

More than that, though, I’m just not sure what the real incentive is for people to go over and join/rejoin MySpace. If you’re signing in with MySpace then you may be able to pull all your friends over there but what’s the point? Why not just stick with Facebook? If someone isn’t a rich media producer there’s little, if any, “there” there. 

Time, as always, will tell if I’m wrong. But my first impression is that MySpace is chasing an audience that increasingly doesn’t exist with no strong pull on people to change their existing behaviors. 

Movie Marketing Madness: The Social Network

Believe it or not – and based on the extent to which issues surrounding it are discussed both amongst friends and colleagues but also in the press – there was a time where online social networking did not exist. Back in the dark days of 1999 there were no sites where one could upload photos, post status updates on what you were feeling, watching or thinking about or feel really conflicted about the fact that someone who used to beat you up in high school has sent you a friend request and maybe that means they’ve grown and want to amend for past problems and maybe it means they just want to laugh at how your life has played out and ask if you still drive that ’92 Cavalier that you put white-wall tires on because you like them, dammit.

The extent to which you miss those days is probably largely dependent on how closely you can relate to the above.

Facebook certainly wasn’t the first social network and it probably won’t be the last. Friendster was launched in 2002, MySpace in 2003 and there have been a host of others since then. Facebook itself didn’t launch until 2004, and then only to students of Harvard, where Mark Zuckerberg and his friends and cohorts were attending college. It wasn’t until 2006 that the company dropped the requirement in order to join you had to be enrolled either in high school or college, a milestone that opened up the floodgates and started it down the path to where it is now – trying to take over the world.

It’s the days before all that, when Zuckerberg was still a student and hacker, that are chronicled in The Social Network. Written by superstar writer Aaron Sorkin and directed by superstar director David Fincher, the film stars Jesse Eisenberg as Zuckerberg and takes us back to the halls of Harvard and the years immediately following that, as Zuckerberg and his allies, including Napster founder Sean Parker (played by Justin Timberlake), fight various attempts to either wrest control of the nascent network from his hands or score a payout that’s commiserate with just how big Facebook seems to be getting.

The Posters

The movie’s first and only poster took a number of unfamiliar paths to presenting what should have been a straightforward sell. First, the movie’s title is hidden over in the right side of the design, in the toolbar where the Facebook name and logo would usually be appearing. Second, the face of Eisenberg is largely obscured by the copy “You don’t get to 500 million friends without making a few enemies” in the middle well of the poster. Lastly, because of the arrangement of the navigation bar on the right side, it throws off the viewer’s orientation a bit since it, combined with the fact that the scroll bar is along the bottom, means we’re in essence looking at a computer screen that’s sitting on its side. So that’s a bit disorienting until you overcome that.

All that does work, despite the unconventional manner in which the movie is presented to the audience. Also working is the way Eisenberg is standing there in a hoodie with his mouth slightly agape, like he can’t even believe you just said that. So he comes off as someone who knows he’s smarter than you or at least doesn’t care about your opinion.

Sorkin and Fincher are nowhere to be found on the poster, which makes the fact that this was the one and only poster a bit more surprising than it would their absence would have been if this were just a teaser.

The Trailers

The movie’s first teaser trailer wasn’t all that much different from the first teaser poster. A series of words describing Zuckerburg flash on a black screen while snippets of dialogue beginning with a conversation about the initial launch of Facebook right through one about a federal lawsuit play over the visuals. At the end of the spot the mosaic that’s slowly been building finally comes in to focus as the same image of Eisenberg that was seen on that teaser poster.

The spot works primarily for those members of the audience that are looking forward to the writing of Sorkin in that it shows off the dialogue without the actual performances getting in the way. For those looking for their first real glimpse of Eisenberg in action as the founder of the titular social network it probably came off as a little disappointing. But with its appearance shortly after that of the teaser poster it came off as a nice one-two punch to get people talking about the movie and raise some anticipation.

A second trailer took a similar path by featuring primarily dialogue presented as voice over on the screen. But this time, instead of the camera pulling out to reveal the movie’s poster, the dialogue was accompanied by similar text that appeared on the screen in the form of Facebook status updates. So as the character was saying something the text appeared alongside an avatar of theirs, news feed style. Clever.

The third trailer starts out making you think it will be in a similar vein to the first two. A choral version of Radiohead’s “Creep” plays while we see a montage of Facebook photos and updates, all with the “Like” or “Comment” features alongside them. But then we start to see some actual footage from the movie, most of which features the same dialogue we’ve heard in the previous trailers and which now we can finally see come to life.

It’s clear that Eisenberg is comfortable making Zuckerberg seem like an arrogant bastard who is focused on making a splash and achieving the status he sees himself as deserving of.

There’s not a whole lot more to say since, as I stated, the scenes we see here we’ve heard before in the previous trailers. So there’s not a lot of new ground being broken in this spot, it’s just finally presented in a more traditional way. Notably, though, that more traditional way wouldn’t work nearly as well, I don’t think, if the groundwork hadn’t been laid by the earlier spots.

An interactive version of that third trailer later debuted on MySpace (more on that later) that let the audience click in to the video to learn some factoids about movie or the subject matter that inspired it.

The trailers and their unique visuals inspired a host of imitators, most of which transferred the action from Facebook to some other online entity, from MySpace to YouTube to Twitter, each with varying results but all generally pretty funny.

Online

The movie’s official website opens with a huge reproduction of the poster art alongside a rotating series of quotes from early reviews of the film. Also along the right rail on the site are prompts to watch the interactive trailer and read some news, which actually takes you to a Tumblr blog where the studio has put some of the choicest bits of press and publicity the film has received.

That use of Tumblr is interesting since, as we’ll see later, the movie didn’t have a Facebook page and so was in need of an outlet for this story-sharing feature. Plus it comes with Tumblr’s built-in sharing features, which are significant. I could be wrong but I think this is the first time I’ve seen a studio use Tumblr like this and it’s cool, but I wonder if anyone realizes what a full-featured blog could do for them?

Entering the site you’re greeted with a mosaic of images and when you mouse-over some of them you can find bits of content such as video clips, filmmaker profiles and more. That’s a cool and engaging way to access some of that material but if you’re concerned you’ll miss something, all of that is also available via a more traditional menu at the top of the screen.

Actually what happens when you click on, say “Video” at the top is that the squares containing video material are lit up and the rest dimmed. But no matter what you click here you’ll have access to the rest of the videos, in this case all the trailers, a TV spot and four Movie Clips that extend out scenes, most of which we’ve seen teased in the trailers.

Clicking “Photos” you’ll see that the stills on the site are broken up in to sub-galleries by character for the most part, with a few general catch-all groups as well. If all the photos in each gallery are unique and there aren’t any dupes (which I can’t confirm) there are well over 80 stills here, the largest amount I’ve seen on just about any site.

“About” will highlight the sections where you can read a Synopsis, Cast and Filmmaker information and download Production Notes.

“News” opens up the same Tumblr blog that was on the front page and the last two sections are just for the i-Trailer and the movie’s Soundtrack where, in a much-publicized stunt, you can download five sample track’s from Trent Reznor’s album.

For obvious reasons, the movie did not have a Facebook presence. But on the official site there is a button where you can “Recommend” the movie’s site on Facebook.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

As mentioned above, the movie did not have a Facebook profile but the studio did take part in Twitter’s “Promoted Trends” ad option to raise awareness of the movie, specifically right around the time the third trailer debuted. And while it didn’t have a Facebook presence it did get an ad run on the *other* social network, MySpace, where it was one of the premiere advertisers in that network’s new Movies section. It would later essentially take over MySpace for a day (Mediaweek, 9/22/10) with ad units both static and video in nature.

While there don’t appear to be any specific guidelines that would be violated by advertising the movie on Facebook itself, the studio – and third parties such as online movie ticket sites – shied away from it (ClickZ, 9/27/10). Since, if followed, the rules wouldn’t rule such ads out entirely my guess – and this is just a guess – is that part of the discussions between the studio and Facebook included an agreement that they wouldn’t run such ads, which would put Facebook in the awkward position of becoming an ad platform for an unflattering portrayal of itself.

More traditional TV advertising was also done, basically beginning with a spot that aired during MTV’s 2010 Video Music Award broadcast (Hollywood Reporter, 9/13/10) and then expanding to the rest of television. These spots weren’t nearly as artistic and etheral as the trailers, instead opting for more club-sounding music and a series of clips that emphasized Eisenberg’s somewhat sleezy portrayal of Zuckerberg and the relationships he left dead in his wake.

Media and Publicity

Interestingly much of the early publicity came from Caroline McCarthy at CNET, who was among the first to notice that Sorkin had created a Facebook profile and group and announced there that he was writing a movie about the network. She later reported on the casting of that movie as well as an edict issued by Facebook to its employees not to cooperate in any way with its production.

Of course the movie got a ton of free publicity in the form of the continued privacy hand-wringing about the site and how much information it was collecting from users and what it was doing with that. As McCarthy states in the story, all of that news and commentary was coming just ahead of the anticipated marketing for the movie and so was going to put the spotlight on the site in a bunch of unfavorable ways.

Some more buzz picked up when it was announced it would debut at the New York Film Festival, an engagement that meant it would not be appearing at other festivals in the fall. That announcement along with the positive buzz generated by the first few components of the marketing created the sense that the movie could be (Los Angeles Times, 7/8/10) this year’s big word-of-mouth hit.

Related publicity came when Facebook announced it had indeed reached the 500 million user mark that was touted in the movie’s campaign to that point. That milestone was accompanied by a TV interview with the real Zuckerberg where he addressed some of the issued facing Facebook at the time and in which he stated he would not be running out to catch the film.

Despite the movie’s negative tone, though, it was roundly agreed that it was unlikely to do any serious damage to Facebook itself.

That didn’t mean Facebook was taking a “whatever” attitude toward the movie though. While the public face may be one of benign disinterest, behind the scenes things are reported (New York Times, 8/20/10) to be a bit more tense. Zuckerberg himself has been trying to minimize the damage the movie might do to his personal reputation and other executives at the social network are said to be less than thrilled with how the film depicts the circumstances surrounding the site’s founding.

As things moved toward the release date, legitimate questions were raised as to whether the movie would be hit or a flop (CNET, 8/27/10), largely depending on the audience’s taste for seeing its own generation on screen, how effective the cast would be at drawing in crowds and what impact the early reviews would have on perceptions.

Sorkin himself even had to come out and make statements on how the movie was not meant to be an attack on Zuckerberg (LAT, 9/13/10) but instead is intended as a dramatization of the events that led to Facebook’s launch and eventual rise.

While the movie didn’t screen at the Toronto International Film Festival (though it did sneak to various reviewers around that time), Kevin Spacey, one of the producers on the movie, took time from promoting his own film that was at TIFF to talk about the somewhat unorthodox path (New York Times, 9/13/10) the movie took during production.

After those press screenings talk began to turn to the possibility of awards nominations (Hollywood Reporter, 9/17/10) and how the studio wanted it to be the kind of movie that got some serious kudos and critical recognition along with box-office success with the audience.

Close to release press started to appear (NYT, 9/19/10) that had the creators and producers pointing out that really it’s a timeless story of betrayal and ambition that just so happens to take place just moments ago. Whether stories like this were meant to calm concerns that it was perhaps too timely a topic or whether this was to make the movie more palatable to critics and taste-makers who want nothing to do with anything Facebook-related is unclear.

There were also stories about how executives at Facebook, while obviously still not thrilled with the whole thing, were at least complimentary of the producers of the movie and the experience they had working with them. Still, it was company was in full “prepare for impact” mode (LAT, 9/24/10) leading up to its release because of the way it portrayed its history.

Perhaps to counter the negative press that had been accumulating and was sure to only get more intense, Zuckerberg (the real one) announced just a week before the movie opened a major charitable contribution to New Jersey schools, part of a PR tour that included a stop at Oprah’s show.

Just a week or so before release it was announced the movie would open the 2010 New York Film Festival (NYT, 9/24/10), marking its own festival appearance this season.

Overall

This is a really good campaign that works so well because it establishes early on a clear brand identity and then sticks with it throughout the rest of the marketing. All the material here on the marketing side works well together and is instantly recognizable by the audience as being for the same movie no matter where they encounter it.

It also strikes the right tone because there’s a definite sense of artistic vision about the entire campaign. The trailers all come off not so much as advertisements but as mini-films in and of themselves, albeit ones that tease a much longer one but one that isn’t going to be markedly different in style than the trailers you’re watching. That artistic tone is all the more attractive if you already are familiar with Sorkin and Fincher, especially the former since it’s his writing that really is the star of the campaign, starting with the first teaser trailer and continuing through the release of several clips and other promotional material.

Where the movie really gets a boost, though, is by virtue of the fact that it has been endlessly covered not just by the movie trade press but also the tech and social-media press, who have been all over many of the film’s elements due to its overlapping with their own coverage areas. That’s allowed not only for plenty of discussion about whether the movie is or isn’t close to reality and how Zuckerberg and the rest of Facebook is reacting to it but also for guys like Sorkin and Fincher to come out and make their presence known, which plays in to the campaign’s overall strengths of putting them on the front lines.

PICKING UP THE SPARE

  • 10/01/10 – The Hollywood Reporter goes into detail on how those within and working with Facebook chose a strategy of non-engagement to deal with the movie, instead opting for chances to brush up Zuckerberg’s image and make him a more fully understood, and therefore hopefully more relateable, person and character.
  • 10/04/10 – While the face Zuckerberg was on the big screen, the real one was on the small screen portraying himself in an episode of The Simpsons.

Movie Marketing Madness: Easy A

What do you do when the reputation you have is completely out of whack with reality? Making matters more complex, what do you do when you yourself are the one who put that reputation out there and have been keeping it going, all in the name of helping a friend?

It’s exactly that kind of situation Olive (Emma Stone) finds herself in in the new movie Easy A. Olive is a kind person who wants to help one of her best friends, Todd, escape the wrath of the school bullies. Todd has recently realized he’s gay but isn’t ready to fully come out. So to convince the rest of the school he’s as straight as the day is long he convinces Olive to fake having sex with him at a party. But that then leads to Olive being branded a slut, which causes problems between her and the schools snooty moral police student. It also leads to a lucrative career as she then helps other needy guys by pretending to have sex with them as well.

How she deals with this balancing act and the impact it has on her real life are what appear to drive the movie so let’s take a look at how this unusual sort of high school sex comedy is being sold.

The Posters

The movie’s poster focuses on the fact that Stone is a hot (in both senses) commodity right now by putting her right there in the middle of the design. She’s standing against a chalkboard that has all the names she’s being called written on it, with arrows pointing to her. But the sign she’s holding represents her side of the story, explaining that the movie is told from her point of view and that the accusations being hurled against her by the chalkboard aren’t at all true.

It’s a nice enough poster. It doesn’t go very far in selling the movie as a must-see but instead is more brainy in its approach, by which I mean you actually have to read in order to get what it’s telling you. The subject matter – the epitaphs hurled at Stone’s character – comes through pretty well but the main point here is that Stone is the must see element of the movie.

The Trailers

The first trailer laid out the basic plot pretty well and in mildly compelling fashion. Stone serves as the narrator, speaking the exposition to what is assumed to be a webcam and telling the story of how she changed her reputation at school.

That journey involves agreeing to have a fake love fest with a male friend of hers who just recently admitted to her that he was gay so that he can toughen up his image around school. After doing so, though, two things happen: She becomes the target of derision among other girls who think she’s a slut and she becomes sought after by other guys who want her to do the same for their image.

The spot is alright and pretty funny, but comes off a little formulaic and is saved mostly by the massive amounts of charm Stone brings with her.

Online

First off, I have to make note of the domain the movie’s official website has: letsnotandsaywedid.com. Usually I’m not a big fan of super-clever domains, but this one is kind of amusing. Even more interesting, it doesn’t just roll to a page off the Sony Classics website, which most of these vanity URLs usually do.

Once you enter the site (there’s not much other than links to Twitter and Facebook on the splash page) the first thing you’re prompted to do is enter your name and choose your gender so that your name can be added to the bathroom wall. So when I did this I was called “easy” and “a tramp” and such. You can also put your friends name on that wall by entering their name and email address, which sends an image with similar epitaphs to them.

Also on the bathroom wall is the “Earn Your A Quiz” which tests your moral fortitude and sense of self-worth to see how much of an idiot you are.

Moving to the top of the site the first section is “Hear From the Cast” which is soundboard of audio clips from each character in the movie.

The “About the Film” page just has a one-sentence synopsis of the movie that’s mostly about the connections to The Scarlett Letter. But the fact that it then says, “Haven’t read The Scarlett Letter? Neither have we.” and then has a link to the Wikipedia page and not, say, to Amazon where people could buy the book just kind of makes me cry a little inside.

The “Gallery” has eight stills from the movie and “Downloads” has some AIM Icons and Wallpapers you can grab.

“Video” just has the Trailer and two Clips from the movie.

The “Earn Your A Quiz” is also here at the top, as is the “Send A Rumor Wall” featured. There’s also a  “Rumor Game” game, where you collect rumors as weapons to use agains protestors as you seek to collect gift cards from characters.

The movie’s Facebook page has a lot of interesting stuff. Not only are there updates with the promotional activities of the cast here but also a ton of video (why this isn’t on the official site is a mystery), a tab devoted to Emma Stone and showcasing her previous movies, an “Ask Olive” that lets you submit questions as long as you’ve already liked the page and more.

The Twitter page has a similar list of updates and the movie even has a MySpace page, causing me to check my calendar and make sure it wasn’t still 2006, that has photos and video.

The problem with all these social network extensions is that they seem to be coming from Olive – All are written in her voice and seem to be telling the story from her point of view – but then things like the movie’s trailer being there burst that illusion.

It’s always helpful to remember this simple graphic:

Either commit to the illusion or make it full-on marketing. Crossing the streams such as what’s done here just comes off as odd.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

I think I’ve seen a few online ads for the movie but there don’t appear to have been any TV spots created or other advertising done, at least none that’s come to my attention.

There were a couple promotional partners for the movie as well.

Women’s fashion retailer Wet Seal ran a sweepstakes giving people the chance to win a screening of the movie in their hometown as well as the opportunity to win one of five Sony Bloggie video cameras.

E.L.F., a cosmetics company, similarly was giving away a hometown screening of the movie as well as E.L.F. gift cards, some “Get the Look of the Movie” sets and, finally, a handful of autographed movies posters.

Media and Publicity

Aside from the buzz that came from the marketing materials, the first real publicity for the movie was the announcement it would be appearing at the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival. That appearance started a round of positive word of mouth for the movie, with stories like this (Los Angeles Times, 9/9/10) saying it could be Stone’s breakout performance after a couple years of playing mostly second fiddle roles.

Overall

It’s a nice campaign that comes off as being able to hold its own against other, bigger movies here at the end of the summer season. It relies heavily on Stone’s considerable charms and so, I’m guessing, makes a safe bet in terms of finding the strongest point of the film to focus on. The fact that the trailer is framed by her communicating directly to the audience and doing the narration in a nontraditional way really brings that to the forefront.

Individually each component works more or less on its own, but there’s not a lot of consistency or cross-over between those components. Sure there’s artwork that’s carried over from one platform to the next, but I’m talking about a larger brand identity that’s not really carved out using all elements. I like many of these elements on their own but they don’t, at least for me, come together and gel as a whole.

That being said I still like this campaign a lot and think it will resonate with a couple different audiences, from the high school crowd to folks who are a bit older and enjoy well-written, smart comedies of all sorts.

Movie Marketing Madness: The A-Team

Several weeks ago an elite commando unit was framed of a crime they didn’t commit. These men promptly escaped and were presumed dead. Today, still wanted by the government, they attempted to trade off the public buzz about another upcoming movie release based on much more well-known source material. If you have the hankering for an action movie with a light comedic touch,…if no other movie this summer has helped you scratch that itch…if you can find this movie…if you can afford this movie…maybe you can see…The A-Team.

Yes, I’m talking at first about The Losers, a movie which seemed to tell a similar story and be based on a similar presence to The A-Team. But now we have the big-screen adaption of the original, the big-screen adaptation of the popular ’80′s TV show that helped turn Mr. T into a household name and “I pity the fool” into a schoolyard taunt.

The movie has the same basic outline as the source show: A group of special forces operatives (updated from Vietnam to Iraq) has been falsely accused of a crime they didn’t commit. Seeking to clear their name they escape custody and become mercenaries of a sort, helping the wronged and evading the authorities. Known for their impossiblely risky missions, this group eventually must concentrate on finding the real perpetrator of the crimes they’re accused of. Led by Hannibal (Liam Neeson), a master of putting together outrageous plans, the group includes the charismatic Face (Bradley Cooper), mechanic and munitions expert B.A (Quintin Jackson) and pilot – and nutjob – Murdoch (Sharlto Copley).

The Posters

The teaser poster took one of the first publicity stills that had been released and essentially moved the actors around. The four members of the team are arrayed on a mountain to, most of them sporting heavy weaponry and easily recognizable based on the way they’re dressed. So Face is sporting a stylish suit, Murdoch has on his signature red ball cap and so on. At the top the tagline for the movie “There is no Plan B” is spelled out in very military type lettering with the film’s title at the bottom.

It’s not the most terribly original poster in the word but it accomplishes what it needs to, which is show the audience what these nostalgic characters look like in their new incarnations.

A later series of character-centric posters was released that featured extreme close-ups of each actor  with their character’s name at the bottom. Fun and striking, these are, again, all about making the audience feel comfortable with this new version of the story and does so pretty well. The individual posters were eventually combined into this quad image that put the movie’s title in the middle of the group.

The Trailers

The first trailer is an interesting mix of sizzle and steak. While the visuals are certainly meant to entrance you with how awesome they are there are other elements that give the spot a little more depth, at least for fans of the series.

The footage included in this first spot is pulled from all over the movie. It opens with shots of the team being sent to prison and then escaping en route. Once they’re free and acting as the avenger of the little guy there are plenty of explosions, airplane chases and even a tank firing on a fighter jet as it – the tank – falls from the sky. So it’s all about action and adventure. This being the first real look at the actors in character it also elicits quite a few “Hey, he looks kind of cool” moments from the audience, with all four guys being shown as inspired by the original portrayals while not slipping into imitations.

What’s really cool, though, is that as all this footage is unspooling the voiceover narration is taken straight from the opening sequence of the TV show. “Elite force…sent to prison for a crime they didn’t commit…if you can find them…” etc. For people like me who watched it when they were younger that alone is kind of cool, even if the younger generation that is being targeted with the visual look and feel will have to have that explained to them.

The second trailer starts off with more of the scene of the team’s court-martial before giving way to their escape. It spends a bit more dedicated time on introducing the four main characters as well…look, it doesn’t matter. What the trailer has in spades is fun, action and attitude. It doesn’t matter that the scene of the tank on a parachute shooting down a fighter jet is absolutely ridiculous…it’s fun. The frequent scenes of the cast laughing to each other about this, that or the other thing along with shots of Jessica Biel and lots of things going ‘splodey is all you need to know. You either enjoy the trailer or you don’t

Online

The official website opens with the second trailer playing and links to the movie’s social network profiles below it.

Once you enter the site there are four main content sections, each one designated by one of the characters in art that’s reminiscent of the teaser poster. Each section also has a character “Dossier,” which includes the character-centric TV spot we’ll talk about later as well as a couple of sound clips you can listen to and share on twitter or Facebook.

Hannibal has “About the Film,” which is where you’ll the Story synopsis – which is pretty good and gives good background on the plot outlines – as well as Cast and Filmmakers profiles.

Face’s section is, somewhat appropriately, “Trailers and Videos.” This section actually has quite a bit of content, including the two Trailers, the Four TV spots and six music videos featuring various producer/artist remixes of the iconic theme song.

“Downloads” is B.A.’s section and just has a selection of Wallpapers and AIM Icons.

Murdock, finally, has the “Gallery,” which has about 13 stills from the movie.

There’s also a “Assemble Your Team” feature on the site that uses Facebook Connect (or whatever it’s called now) to let you decide which character from the movie you most resemble and then find Facebook friends to round out the team and fill in the missing components.

The movie’s Facebook and Twitter profiles offer very similar experiences to one another with links to updates on new clips being available, new marketing material being released and so on. The Facebook page obviously has more video and photos actually on the page, which is similar to what’s offered on the MySpace page.

An online game let you take control of the team’s iconic van and drive it around Google Earth, unlocking movie clips and other content as you go.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

In what I believe was the first round of TV advertising done for the movie, a series for four character-centric spots were created that, obviously, showcased the cast and attempted to sell each performance to the audience. All of these were just as fun and loose as the trailer and it’s clear that some characters are more well defined – or at least that some actors are doing more with their performances – than others. Bradley Cooper as Face, for instance, may just be the best reason to even consider seeing it.

A few spots during the NBA playoffs had the TNT commentators dressing up like Mr. T in what were jokingly called audition tapes for the movie.

The movie’s one cross-promotional deal was with the Del Taco fast-food chain (MediaPost, 6/9/10), which offered movie-themed drink cups and used some of the movie’s lines in their signage and advertising.

Media and Publicity

Some of the initial media coverage was of director Carnahan explaining very clearly (Los Angeles Times, 1/14/09) just how this movie was both similar and different from the original TV show and how the characters have been updated.

Another common theme of the press coverage was the cast’s memories of and fondness for the source material, exemplified in this story (Los Angeles Times, 4/26/10) about Sharlto Copley.

There was also some coverage in genre fanzines such as Empire, which featured it as part of the summer’s big line-up of hard-hitting action fare.

There were also pains taken to distance the movie from anything remotely resembling a “B” action movie, despite the fact that that’s exactly what much of the paid campaign made it look to be. Instead Carnahan played the movie up (LAT, 5/2/10) as being closer in spirit to Batman Begins, with an updated attitude and streamlined look.

The studio also sought to spur some word-of-mouth buzz about the movie with the release of a number of extended clips that gave audiences a deeper look at the finished product.

Unfortunately not all of the TV show’s original cast were thrilled with the movie. Both Dirk Benedict and Mr. T came out as negative on the film, with Benedict seemingly upset they didn’t give him more face time and Mr. T discouraged by the inclusion of lots of sex and graphic violence into what, on TV, was more adventure-oriented. At least I can kind of understand the latter opinion.

Overall

While it doesn’t exactly set the world on fire, the campaign has done a decent job of making the case for the film as one of the action movies people should be sure to see this summer. The trailers are funny and move along at a pace which guarantees the audience isn’t likely to have time to ask many questions about what’s going on, which is good. And there’s a cohesive, consistent brand experience created between the posters, the trailer and the website as well as the advertising that was done.

If there’s a weak spot it’s in the poster campaign, which despite the existence of four character posters seems a bit light without a final theatrical one-sheet providing a capstone to that part of the effort. The combined quad of the four character posters it seems is serving that purpose but it would have been nice to see a unique item here.

Likewise I don’t know that there were other TV spots created other than the four character introductions. I would think there would be at least a couple that were more inclusive and mimicked the trailers a bit but there were none like that to my knowledge.

Still, despite these missing assets, it’s a good campaign for a movie that could wind up being a lot of fun. As a colleague of mine said the other day, there’s an entire generation of guys that is having a Pavlovian response to wanting to see this movie so the campaign hasn’t had to work too hard to convince us. But on the other hand it hasn’t done anything to discourage us from wanting to see it as many campaigns that rely too heavily on the nostalgia factor sometimes do.

PICKING UP THE SPARE:

  • 12/16/10 – Director Joe Carnahan throws the movie’s marketing team under the bus, saying they bungled its selling by not adequately explaining what the original TV show was all about and not appealing strongly enough to women, who according to his anecdotal evidence have loved it.

Movie Marketing Madness: Kick-Ass

There are, as we likely all know, two levels of comic adaptations. There are super-heroes that are brought to life on the big screen with lots of special effects, costumes and a little dash of questionable casting. Then there are “the others” that are adaptations of less splashy visuals and have, in most cases, a hint of the independent vibe that their creators infused them with and which has then translated to the screen.

But lately there’s a middle ground that has grown increasingly prevalent. 2008′s Wanted was based on a comic that wasn’t a super-hero story exactly, though the film certainly featured visuals that would have been comfortably at home in any of those movies. Likewise the upcoming Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is an adaptation of a comic that features exaggerated characters and situations that are born of the super-hero world but which are not about any such hero.

In that sort of middle ground also is Kick-Ass, one of this year’s most anticipated films among the geekarati. The story is about a world without real super heroes and so, some people start thinking, why can’t they become costumed avengers? You don’t actually need powers, just a mask and a mission. And so a handful of kids put together a costume and start fighting “evil” in some form or another. The source book (which I’ll admit to not having read) is reportedly crass and violent and, based on the marketing we’re about to take a look at, the movie doesn’t seem to deviate from that too wildly.

The Posters

With such a colorful cast of characters there were bound to be a plethora of posters created and the marketing team has certainly delivered on that front.

The first batch of teasers placed each of the main characters – Red Mist, Kick-Ass himself, Hit Girl and Big Daddy – in that most cliched of super-hero poses, that of standing atop a building and looking over the city they’ve sworn to protect triumphantly and with a sense of entitlement and ownership. When you put the four posters together in the order outlined above the title of the movie is spelled out in the sky, which is a nice touch and certainly an incentive for collectors excited about the movie to seek out the one-sheets and webmasters to reprint this group excitedly.

A second batch of teaser one-sheets again featured each individual character, but in different poses and with more color-coded backgrounds. Each one also got it’s own little saying that deflated the idea they were actually had any powers but did emphasize what they could do, which is kick your ass. So Kick Ass’ poster says “I can’t fly. But I can kick your ass.” and so on. Each also contained a URL to what appeared to be a character-specific website but those addresses, when entered, just redirected to the movie’s official site.

Not content with two bites at the apple there was a third set created and released that toned down the clever and just presented the four characters bursting through the title treatment with a burst of color in their wake.

While three series of character-centric posters for a movie with only four main characters it’s showing off might seem…excessive…it did serve the purpose of creating a steady stream of publicity on movie blogs and elsewhere. That kept the movie in the audience’s mind and kept them talking about it in the interim between filming and release.

A theatrical poster took the same visual style as the last of the teaser series, with the bold, block letter title treatment in the background and the four characters standing in the front and above the little bit of non-credit block copy on the poster that states definitively “Shut up. Kick ass.” It certainly looks like the kind of image that might be created for a comic trade paperback and is pretty cool, finishing off the poster component of the campaign nicely, even if I think it was developed and released before series three of the teasers.

The Trailers

The first all ages trailer starts off with a shot of a winged hero standing atop a building ready to take flight. As he prepares we get voiceover asking why no one has thought of being a super-hero before since their lives can’t be so interesting as to not need a little adventure mixed in. When the winged figure takes off he plummets straight down, eventually landing with a deadly thud on top of a taxi as the voiceover informs us that’s not him, that’s some dude with mental problems.

After a brief shot of the main character and his friends discussing whether or not becoming a hero is possible we get a “putting on the costume” scene we’re then shown quickly the other everyday heroes before we finally get the “I’m Kick Ass” scene.

The second trailer starts off with the friends discussing how probable it is that anyone who tried to be a super hero would wind up seriously injured very shortly but then provides a little more background into the guy who would be Kick Ass before showing him suiting up. That initial appearance, we’re told via news footage, inspires others to take up similar mantles and so we’re introduced more fully to Big Daddy, Hit Girl and Red Mist as they seek to fight crime on their own terms. We also get a better idea of what they’re going up against as we see a crime leader of some sort (played by Mark Strong) and what his reaction to the rise of costumed vigilantes is and what sort of havoc they’re playing with his operations.

A third and much shorter trailer really served as a greatest hits compilation of the ones that had come before. I don’t think there’s any new footage in there but it does introduce all four characters once again and get to the idea that these are just ordinary people who have decided to take the law into their own hands. Or at least that they’ve decided to stop allowing innocent people to take a beating without doing anything.

Because the movie was rated R and it was doing so well in establishing its hard core cred, a red-band trailer was also introduced that included more language and mentions of the primary hero’s masturbatory tendencies. It also contained a few more graphic shots of the backs of people’s heads being blown off. Some of that language would come out of the mouth of the young girl who plays Hit Girl, which would result in some hand-wringing by media and other critics that we’ll talk more about later on.

Online

When you load the official website the primary menu shows briefly before giving way to the trailer, which you can also share on a variety of social networks or embed on your own blog. Closing that you’ll see the main page has prompts to Buy Tickets Now as well as a list of theaters showing sneak peeks which seems to be generated based on the location of your computer’s IP address. So when I visited I got a list of theaters in the western suburbs of Chicago. There are also links to read reviews on IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes, which is somewhat unusual and shows what faith the marketers are putting in word of mouth peer reviews.

When you enter the site the first thing you’re prompted to do is play some light games, which if you register will get you points you can redeem later on. Each character icon brings you to a different game that’s associated with that character’s skills in the story.

Moving to the site’s content menu, “About” has a decent paragraph write-up of the film’s story and characters. The “Cast and Crew” section is one of the best-designed such executions I think I’ve seen with its big icons for each actor that leads you to information on their background and biography.

There are 12 stills from the movie in “Photos” and “Videos” contains the Teaser and Theatrical Trailers as well as a handful of clips from the movie that extend scenes that are teased in the trailers. “Downloads” has four character-centric Wallpapers and Icons that use the same images from one of the teaser poster series.

The “Restricted” section contains direct links to things like Watch Hardcore Videos (the restricted trailer) and an Adults Only Soundboard as well as more that prompts you to take various actions with foul-mouthed language, including a call to grab an embeddable widget, something I haven’t seen in a while.

“Partners” has links to the content hubs at sites like IGN and UGO as well as information on buying movie-branded goods by French Connection and Vans. There are also links to the Lionsgate YouTube channel and information on the film’s soundtrack.

The “News” section has photos from the movie’s screening at SXSW, a music video from Mika and photos from the UK premiere. There are also embedded updates from the studio’s Twitter feed and when you click “See All Updates” you’re taken to that profile.

Finally the “Store” lets you buy movie t-shirts and other goodies from Gold Label.

Each character also got their own Facebook page, something that must have cost the studio a healthy sum considering Facebook’s policies on making sure you are who you say you are on the network. When you visited the pages for Kick Ass, Red Mist, Big Daddy or Hit Girl you were prompted to both enter a sweepstakes to win a trip to the premiere or enter a contest by uploading video of you in your super-hero costume and showing off your moves. Each character’s page also had plenty of information about that particular character as well as links ot the other’s profiles, the official site, links to the Demand It campaign and a Wall’s worth of links to coverage of new marketing materials and more about the movie.

The movie’s MySpace page had the trailers, some clips and links to the same contests and sweepstakes mentioned before.
There was a sited called Real Life Superheroes that was kind of…weird. It’s obviously part of the campaign for the movie – banner ads for the flick are all over the place – but it also seems to exist in a world of such characters, encouraging people to create profiles for their own heroes.

The Lionsgate YouTube channel was retro-fitted to be a hub for people to submit their own video review after seeing the movie. The main channel page also contained a stream of commentary about the movie from Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, a stream powered by a service called @ThisMoment, integration it and the movie got a bit of press out of. Likewise the studio’s Twitter channel contained steady updates on the movie’s publicity and links to what it felt was important commentary.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

A ton of advertising has been done, including the creation of quite a few TV spots, many of which took the form of trimmed trailers and featured little new material. Still, they’re effective at conveying the overall attitude of the movie to an audience, though there’s the concern that without the additional time that can be used for more explanation there’s going to be the belief that this is a straight super-hero movie. The expanded trailers make it more clear that it’s taking a drastically different approach to the genre but that doesn’t come through as loudly in 30-second spots.

There has been a good amount of outdoor advertising as well as well as some online and, one would assume, in print. Most of that as would be expected has repurposed any of the poster campaign’s art.

Media and Publicity

After an early appearance at Butt-Numb-a-Thon, the movie had it’s official coming out party with a screening on opening night of SXSW 2010. In fact the movie’s presence there included a number of vans to shuttle people around that were decorated with key art elements, which is kind of cool since transportation at festivals is always an issue.

In terms of media coverage a good amount came after the release of some restricted clips that featured foul language, some of which came out of the mouth of young Chloe Grace Moretz, the girl who plays Hit Girl. That led to a lot of commentary about not only whether red-band trailers are appropriate given their propensity to appear on non-age restricted sites (New York Times, 2/24/10) but also on the the fact that an 11 year old girl was saying such things, including lots of references to sexual themes. That focus on Moretz and her role in such a graphic, both verbally and physically, movie continued to be covered in the press (New York Times, 4/11/10) and actually became a central component of a lot of stories (Los Angeles Times, 4/14/10) even those stories that were just about how offensive and incendiary the movie is in general, as well as leading to discussions of gender politics and related issues.

Regardless of what traditional mainstream or trade press coverage the movie has gotten, the real thing going for Kick-Ass is the word of mouth that has been building up for well on a year now. Fans have been absolutely salivating for this movie and have eaten up every new clip, every new trailer, every new preview at a festival or convention. And that campaign has fed that hunger with a steady release of material that has kept the movie never far from top-of-mind and so fueled the conversations about it and therefore the anticipation for it. Indeed it seemed to be pegged by some as the pinnacle (Los Angeles Times, 4/15/10) of the comic/movie geek’s world. As with previous movies in this category, though, how festival and convention buzz translates to box-office success remains to be seen.

Overall

For as sprawling as it can sometimes seem, Lionsgate has actually put together a tight and amazingly consistent campaign here. All the components come back to the same four or five themes and hit the same notes, even if they take different paths to get there, leading to an overall campaign that feels familiar wherever you encounter it while also seeming fresh and new in each venue.

What it does is play to its strengths – and presumably the strengths of the movie – time and time again. So there’s violence, language and a “Hey you know what, let’s just go for broke and let the chips fall where they may” attitude that pervades the entire campaign. It knows fans are expecting the outrageous and so, whenever possible, delivers on that expectation.

It also works really hard to get the audience’s approval. That’s why there are three waves of teaser posters and so many released clips and other elements to get people talking. It really wants people to like it and so will deliver just what it needs to in order to achieve that, which is actually different from most marketing. The marketers don’t just want the movie to be chosen, they want it to be chosen above all else because people are excited and have devised a campaign to create that level of appreciation and excitement, which is where it succeeds as a whole aside from any of the individual elements.

Movie Marketing Madness: The Runaways

It’s not just rock and roll that’s all about attitude. Jazz, folk, classical…all kinds of music are about attitude, the conveying of an emotion or thought through notes. Personally, I get more emotionally into a James Taylor song or a Bach concerto than heavy metal, complete with head-banging in my car as I drive along and listen.

Brief and disturbing insights into my personal habits aside, there’s always been the notion that the 1970′s punk scene was all about bringing the emotion – raw, naked and unhinged – back to pop music in response to what was felt to be the bland clinical approaches of Pink Floyd, Genesis and other bands and artists that were more concerned with songcraft than just flying off the handle. You can argue the artistic merits of the punk movement for a good long while but you certainly can’t say that it wasn’t pure id.

While much of that movement was dominated by men there was a portion of it that laid the foundations of the female rock scene and which built directly off the “women’s lib” societal push of that era. No band did more in this area than than the one whose story is being told in a movie that bears the group’s name, The Runaways. Starring Kristen Stewart as guitar hero Joan Jett and Dakota Fanning as lead singer Cherie Currie, the movie follows the band from its inception through the heyday they enjoyed as counter-culture revolutionaries, not only breaking down music industry barriers for women but also giving their audience an outlet through which to funnel the emotions they were feeling. So let’s look at the marketing of that movie.

The Posters

The teaser poster – which stood as the film’s only one-sheet for a good long while – was a play on the title of The Runaways’ classic song “Cherry Bomb” and features a dripping wet cherry with its stem lit like a fuse. The image not only is a little interpretation of that song but also contains more than a little allusion of female sexuality, which we don’t need to get all detailed into right now. Suffice it to say with the combination of hints toward sex and anarchy (I won’t say outright violence) it’s pretty rock-and-roll.

The later theatrical poster, which didn’t hit until just a few weeks before the movie’s release, was actually a re-purposing of one of the first teaser images that was released as part of the movie’s publicity campaign. Featuring Stewart and Fanning with feathery hair and big sunglasses leaning up against a speaker, the idea here is to convey the attitude that is supposed to be coming off of the women they’re portraying. The slightly hazy colors add to the 70′s vibe that the poster is going for. But as we’ll see with what comes later in the campaign, the choice of an image that has these characters seeming so static is contrary to the sense of frantic energy that other components try to give the audience.

The Trailers

The first trailer was pretty brief – clocking in at a mere 48 seconds – but certainly conveyed the attitude of the movie. It quickly shows us how the rock world was not ready for a bunch of rocker chicks in 1975 but that through sheer determination and talent the Cherry Bombs managed to break through. There’s lots of quick cuts of girls with punk hair and some on-stage action of the group as well as call outs of both Stewart and Fanning but that’s about it. It’s over before it can get much momentum, which kind of – and I don’t know if this was intentional – mimics the punk rock of the era with it’s “play two-minute songs so fast it’s like your life depends on it” style.

The theatrical trailer goes a little bit more into the film’s story, starting with shots of Fanning’s Cherie applying paint to her face in an obvious sign of rebellion and then continuing with a scene of Stewart’s Jett proposing to someone the idea of starting an all-girl rock band. It then jumps right into the rock and roll scene, with The Runaways performing at clubs and elsewhere, gigs that were dripping with sexuality and power. We see their rise from playing in living rooms to stadiums and getting signed by a record label, as well as how they enjoy their new found success. There’s also quite a few shots of how their music has impacted their audience, with girls dancing provocatively and even bursting down doors and windows to meet the band they love so much. It’s a decent spot that gets the general point of the movie across and makes it clear it’s the Cherie/Joan relationship that will drive much of the story, which is what it’s supposed to do.

Online

The movie’s official website opens with that cherry from the teaser poster finally burning down and exploding, which reveals the main content menu.

“The Movie” has a decent synopsis of the plot that tells the audience what to expect – a story of an unlikely musical pairing that went on to become the stuff of legends – that’s decently written if pretty brief.

“The Cast” is broken up into two sections – Performers/Cast and Roadies/Crew – that features biographic and film histories of the major players in the the movie.

You’ll find video under “The Footage,” which contains the Teaser and Theatrical trailers, a TV Spot and an extended clip of of the scene where Joan meets Cherie and convinces her to become part of her band. THere’s also a couple of clips of footage from the cast and crew’s appearance at the Sundance Film Festival in 2010. There are also links YouTube clips of various of the actual band performing in the 70′s, which is pretty cool as a way to introduce those who might be interested in the movie to its inspiration.

“The Scrapbook” is a photo gallery with somewhere around eight or 10 stills from the film. “The Swag” then is the section with some downloads, mainly just a handful of screensavers and chat icons. Finally there’s a section for the film’s “Soundtrack” that has a list of the songs on the album and links to buy it either physically or digitally.

At the bottom of the page are links to the film’s YouTube Channel (which unfortunately just has the teaser trailer), a dedicated Twitter profile that had updates on the film’s campaign and some cool giveaways and other fan interactions, a Facebook page that did similar things with the addition of video and photos as well as more information on the real-life Runaways and a MySpace page that had the same sort of content as well as a prompt to become a fan of the movie’s Facebook page.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

No cross-promotions that I came across, but there was a bit of advertising done for the movie, including some online ads and at least one TV spot.

Media and Publicity

The vast majority of the film’s publicity centered around its festival appearances, first at 2010′s Sundance Film Festival and then at SXSW this year. Other than that much of the press has been about whether or not Stewart can use The Runaways as part of an exit strategy from the shadow of Bella, her character in the Twilight movies. The latter point is an easy hook but kind of unfair to Stewart, who’s only going to be typecast in that kind of role as long as the press thinks that’s all she can do.

Overall

While I usually compliment campaigns for their consistency, this one instead feels oddly one-note, which is slightly different. The campaign, while it maintains much of the same look and feel from one component to another, doesn’t seem to do anything new with the material in each environment. So instead of coming off as a cohesive experience, the reuse of elements from the poster to the website or from the publicity campaign to the poster instead comes off as having nothing new to say.

I do like how the marketing, as I said in regards to the early trailer, has kind of a sense of “live fast” attitude to it that moves at breakneck speed, much like the music the movie is focused on. That’s good since it sucks the audience into the campaign and creates that sort of frantic sense. But then it does nothing with it. So while I’d really like to say this campaign works I just can’t. It does a few things well but overall fails to gel in any meaningful way, at least from my point of view.

Movie Marketing Madness: When in Rome

Kristen Bell is on a role recently with roles that seem designed to show off not only her comedic chops – which are decent – but also make it clear to the audience that she actually an adult young woman (she’s almost 30) and not still the teenager we all met during her run at the title character on “Veronica Mars.” That show, running from 2004 to 2007 had her playing seven or years younger than she actually was at the time. So her recent turns in Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Couple’s Retreat – where she’s the other half of a relationship with grown men – have been part of the plan to position her as a viable leading lady, albeit one that seems to be able to out-think everyone in the room.

The latest effort in that plans is When in Rome. Bell plays a young woman who, finding herself depressed with the state of her romantic life, flies to Rome to attend her sister’s wedding. While there she finds a fountain that’s supposed to have the power to grant the wishes of those in love who throw a coin in. But she instead takes a few coins out, resulting in the men who threw those coins in inexplicably falling in love with her out of nowhere. All this while she begins to see a guy she met at the wedding (Josh Duhamel) but who she can’t be sure is actually interested in her or just under the power of the fountain.

The Posters

The movie’s single poster is alright but nothing special. Focusing on how cute and charming Bell is she gets most of the one-sheet’s real estate, though she’s forced into a weird pose with her biting her fingernails, seemingly trying to portray her to the audience as the kind of girl who is unsure of herself and for whom thinking big thoughts is just hard. Duhamel is positioned behind her and off to the side and we’re meant to assume by the leering look he’s giving her, the day’s growth on his face and the unbuttoned tux that he’s kind of a cad – the typical movie bachelor type of character who probably gets around a lot but who will find redemption by finding the right woman. The setting for most of the action – Rome – is displayed behind them with one of those funny little European mini cars in the foreground, making it clear that the car will factor into some portion of the film’s hilarity.

The Trailers

The trailer starts off as most romantic comedy spots do, showing what a strong, successful and independent woman Bell’s character is. That is, of course, until her ex-boyfriend shows up at a work gig and tells her he’s going to be engaged – not that he is engaged, but that he’s getting engaged. Then she has to throw her life to the ground and jet off to Rome to try and make something magical happen. At the same time Nick, Duhamel’s character is heading to the same wedding for some unstated purpose. The two meet and flirt briefly before she heads out to try her luck with the fountain of love.

It’s then that we see this is going to be a more wacky than usual romcom. Dax Shepherd, Will Arnett, Jon Heder and Danny DeVito all play guys who have their coined picked up by Bell’s Beth and they’re all clearly insane comedic figures who go to outrageous lengths to win her heart. We even, as suspected, see that the mini car comes in for a gag that plays off its compact nature. There are a few laughs here but for the most part we’re not veering into anything resembling unfamiliar territory here.

Online

The movie’s official website opens with the poster key art behind the auto-playing trailer. Indeed the entire “Video” section is what more or less greets you when the site comes up. Under the Video label there’s the trailer, a video from the Katy Perry song that appears on the soundtrack and two TV spots, though they’re not labeled as such. Next to that is “Film Clips” which gives you four extended scenes from the movie that are longer versions of the looks we get in the trailer. There’s also a “Featurette” that has interviews with the two principle cast members and a couple behind-the-scenes clips.

“Photos” has just about eight or nine stills and “About” has a one-paragraph synopsis of the plot, Cast and Crew overviews and some Production Notes, though the latter three sections are all marked as “coming soon” just days before the movie’s release date.

There’s a big emphasis on social networks on the site, with a prompt at the top to connect with the site via Facebook Connect and a stream of Twitter updates that have mentioned the movie at the bottom. The film also has it’s own Facebook, Twitter and MySpace profiles, with all of them being used to varying degrees for messaging and content distribution.

There are a couple “Promotions” mentioned at the bottom but without clickable links, which makes it tough to find out what they’re all about.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

As the website showed there were at least two TV spots created for the campaign. One takes a pretty standard approach – basically a trimmed down version of the trailer. The other, titled “He Said, She Said” is a bit different, featuring stand-up interviews with the characters as they talk about how they met and such. I’m not sure if this device is used in the film itself and it comes off as sort of odd but overall they’re not bad.

There’s also been a bit of online advertising that I’ve come across that has used the core components of the poster art.

Media and Publicity

Plenty of interviews with Duhamel and Bell and some coverage about how the movie, for apparently no real reason, has Heder reverting to Napoleon Dynamite and interacting with Pedro.

Overall

This is one of those campaigns that just comes off as kind of “light.” It’s late January – notoriously a dead period at theaters – and this campaign seems to be built around the idea that not much in the way of a sales pitch is actually needed when you have the charming and attractive Kristen Bell to show off.

The trailer is alright, as is the poster, though neither are going to blow your doors off and, again, seem to rely heavily on us all being in love with Bell. While more or less a safe bet it seems like a risky marketing proposition. The official site is pretty weak and doesn’t actually come across as being nearly as social as the designers likely thought it was going to be.

At the end of the day this is a fair campaign to support what appears to be mildly amusing romantic comedy. Will it pull in the audience? Not sure since there are still some strong contenders at the theater that this has to compete against, so a campaign that comes off as half-hearted might not do the trick.

Movie Marketing Madness: Slammin’ Salmon

Slammin Salmon PosterComedy troupes – or teams of any sort – seem to be a dying breed. Where once the comedy world was dominated by the Marx Brothers, Abbott & Costello, Hope & Crosby and other formal groups, that eventually gave way to the rise of stand-ups and other solo comedians. There’s a resurgence of the “troupe” idea to some extent, even if it is informal in how Vince Vaughn, Ben Stiller, Jason Bateman, Will Ferrell and others are always teaming up with each other.

One of the only real troupes around nowadays is Broken Lizard. After some modest acclaim the group broke into the mainstream in 2002 with the release of Super Troopers, an immensely quotable and absolutely hysterical film. They followed that up with Club Dread and then with Beerfest, which is almost as good as Supertroopers.

The Broken Lizard boys are back in 2009 with their new movie The Slammin’ Salmon. The members of the troupe play employees of a high-end fish restaurant that’s owned by a former heavyweight boxing champ played by Michael Clarke Duncan. Of course, as is common in the Lizard’s films, the place is more or less a shambles behind the scenes, with the staff barely containing their hostility or apathy toward the customers and the boss being a well-meaning but utterly off-kilter individual who blusters through life while just trying to manage the chaos his employees cause.

The Posters

Just one poster was produced here, but it’s pretty good. Featuring the entire Lizard gang plus Duncan, it communicates not only the setting of the movie – a fish restaurant – but also the attitude with all the looks on the cast’s faces and the fact that they’re all looking dubious about the goings-on around them. At the top it’s promoted, smartly, as coming from the creators of Super Troopers and Beerfest, the troupe’s most popular movies to date. And then they get their own brand reinforcement just above the title treatment, with Broken Lizard labeled as presenting this movie.

It’s simple but it works.

The Trailers

The Slammin' Salmon PK 3The first trailer that was released quite early this year, just shortly after it’s debut at Slamdance (more on that later) was a red-band spot that was not only quite funny but also gave a pretty good look at the movie’s story, which is that the owner has challenged the staff to increase their efficiency with a prize of $10,000 to the top selling waiter.

It’s clear here that we’re dealing with a complete egomaniac in the restaurant’s owner and a staff that’s clearly borderline incompetent, certainly not a group of people who you would willingly put in a customer service position. They’re seen muttering under their breath at customers, shoving a whole fish down someone’s throat (while not wearing any pants) and having to quickly cover for swearing at someone who just wants some tea. And that’s not to mention what goes on in the kitchen, where one person eats a brownie that contains a customer’s engagement ring, fights break out and other mayhem ensues.

The fact that it’s a red-band trailer means they get to include a few cuss words and such but even without that it communicates well to the audience what the movie’s about and what they can expect from it.

The later green-band trailer was released shortly after the film was finally picked up for distribution. It’s not all that different either in content or structure from the original one, just with a few words or scenes removed to make it acceptable for all audiences. It’s still funny so that doesn’t matter a whole heck of a lot and there are a few new bits of footage included.

Online

The Slammin' Salmon PK 5The official website for the movie brings you into the restaurant setting with a recreation of a component of the film’s poster art – the five guys – up front and center. The trailer plays on a pair of flat-screen TVs behind the bar in the background, which is actually quite a cool way to display that, especially since clicking those screens will take you to a full version of the trailer.

The site’s full content is available either through an image of a restaurant menu off to the side of the screen or a more traditional site menu at the bottom.

The first section is “Trailer & Clips,” which as of this writing just has the trailer and no additional material. “Photo Gallery” has just five production stills, most of which are shots from the trailers we’ve seen.

“About the Film” has, first, a nice Synopsis of the movie’s plot and story, information on The Cast and a Press Kit you candownload as a Zip fille. There’s also links to the movie’s social network profiles, but we’ll get to those later. “Downloads” just has a few sizes of Wallpapers for you to grab.

Finally, there’s a game called “Slam the Salmon” that puts you in the kitchen of the restaurant and pits you against a fish wearing boxing gloves to see who the winner of that duel is going to be.

Moving back to those social networks, there are actually two Twitter feeds being promoted in conjunction with the movie. One that’s specific to the Slammin’ Salmon – @slamminmovie, and one that’s general for the Broken Lizard troupe, @brokenlizard. Where the movie one is all about the publicity that’s being doing for it, the Lizard feed is much more engaging and interesting since it includes updates about the tour the guys are on and includes some conversation with fans as well as re-tweets from the movie’s account.

A similar split is achieved on Facebook, with one for the gang generally and one for the movie specifically. And, like Twitter, each one works pretty well for what it’s trying to do.

The movie’s MySpace page is pretty dull, just a trailer some video clips and the poster.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

The Slammin' Salmon PK 2Nothing that I’ve seen on any front. I’m sure there may have been some online advertising done but if there was I didn’t see it and there almost certainly no TV commercials as well as no cross-promotions that I’ve come across or heard about.

Media and Publicity

Broken Lizard originally brought the movie to Slamdance 2009 and then SXSW, both of which generated a decent number of reviews and word-of-mouth around the film and its cast. But after that there was largely silence about the movie until Anchor Bay announced (Variety, 10/25/09) they would release the film in December.

Michael Clarke Duncan did a bit of publicity for the film close to its release, including a few TV appearances and other things such as judging an eating contest in Philadelphia. And the boys themselves have been on a national tour where they do stand-up bits and recreate some scenes from a couple of their movies.

Overall

Slammin Salmon - TitleWhile I’m routing for this film since I’m a big fan of the Broken Lizard gang’s other films, I’m not sure the campaign works, at least not completely, and I’m not entirely sure why. I really like the trailers and the poster and the website is alright but don’t feel the same about the rest of the campaign.

I’m not even sure it’s that I don’t think it works when it gets to the Advertising and Media sections, it’s that I’m just disappointed there isn’t more there since I want to see the film succeed. I want a more full-throated effort here and feel like the trailer, especially, is so strong that the other elements wind up feeling a tad weak.

But when it works it works and, while it took a while for the film to get to screens I’m hoping it will find enough of an audience to make it a success.

Movie Marketing Madness: 2012

2012 Poster 6There’s nothing some filmmakers love more than ending the world. The excitement they feel over making landmarks fall down, seas boil over and mass amounts of humanity be wiped out in an instant is so palpable you can practically feel their erection as you sit in the theater seats.

The ability to destroy the Earth has become easier not by the rise of nuclear weapons but by the advances in computer-generated animation. Asking computer operators to make those pixels dance in a way that mimics a massive building falling down seems to be the primary skills possessed by some directors. One of those, of course, is the much-maligned Roland Emmerich. Emmerich is one of the brains behind Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow and other movies that have lots of people running away from various matte paintings and green-screens.

His latest is what brings us here today. 2012 is purportedly based on a reading of the ancient Mayan calendar that pegs December 21st, 2012 as the day the world will come to an end. And as with his previous films the focus is placed simultaneously on the world at large and on one small family – complete with requisite strife to heighten the drama – as things unfold around them.

The Posters

2012 Poster TeaserThe first poster for the movie was a pretty simple teaser, with just the movie’s title treatment and a little bit of text on a black background. Above the title was the copy “Who will be left behind?” which not only plays into the idea that it’s the apocolypse and there will be survivors but also comes with the associated correlation to the “Left Behind” series of books that are popular with people because they pretend to be based on Biblical teachings.

The second, released shortly after director Emmerich appeared at Comic-Con, recreated an image from one of the trailers that shows a major metropolitan area – I think it’s Los Angeles – buckling like sidewalk blocks against the tremendous pressure of the entire ocean rising up and flooding it combined with massive earthquakes. As I said, it ties directly into the trailer footage but also carries more than a little bit of similarities with the posters for his last end-of-the-world flick The Day After Tomorrow, which also showed a city getting the shaft from Mother Nature.

More teasers then followed that continued not only the theme of this campaign but also Emmerich’s tradition of mass chaos, with each one of the three showing the rampant destruction and death toll being visited upon a series of locations around the world.

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A later theatrical poster took the action and made it a little more personal while at the same time recreating one of the images from the first teaser trailer. This one features the same “We were warned” copy the rest of them sport but has a Tibetan monk standing at the top of the Himalayan mountains watching helplessly as the waves of water come crashing over the mountains in front of him. It works alright in that it gives a little bit of a sense of scale (as much as is possible with these movies) to the events and, because it harkens back to the teaser trailer, more or less brings the campaign full circle. It’s also a little less scary for the audience to see this level of decimation being visited on far-away mountain ranges than urban landscapes and so is slightly more accessible for the general viewer.

The Trailers

2012 Pic 5The teaser trailer features precious little about the movie’s plot, other than it’s going to revolve once again around Emmerich ending the human race in some way, shape or form. A lone Tibetian monk races along the mountain tops before entering a small building where he begins ringing what is presumably a warning bell. It’s then we start to see what he’s running from, a huge wave of water that’s coming over the mountain, a wave that eventually overcomes the small outpost.

In between all that are various bits of text about how the leaders of the world wouldn’t warn us if they knew the end of the world were coming. It’s ended with a prompt to find out the truth not be visiting a website but by searching for “2012.”

That’s an interesting strategy to take. It’s been used by a few companies in the past – encouraging people to Google or otherwise search for a brand name – but this is the first time for a movie that I can recall. And they obviously did their legwork before launching the trailer since a search of Google for that did bring up movie-related sites among the first few results, with more general paranoia links placing lower on the page.

The second trailer went more deeply into the story that we’ll be following in the film. It starts with a recap of how the Mayan’s warned us 2012 would be the end all be all before showing us the loving family that’s fathered by John Cusack, who while driving his kids finds fiery meteors raining down around him.

That’s the beginning of the badness, as we then get shot after shot of 200 foot waves crashing across the land, shore lines buckling under the pressure, landmarks crushing thousands of people and other such destruction. As that plays out we see Cusack is valiantly trying to lead his family to safety, a mission that takes them on planes, in cars and dangerously close to death. All while the government officials bicker about species continuity and who gets to survive.

There was a third trailer released after the long-form preview (discussed below) that starts off roughly the same way but features a lot of footage from that extended preview. We get more of Cusack trying to rescue his family from the coming destruction.

After that more singular focus the trailer then expands once again to show the devastation being wrought around the globe as monuments and come toppling down and survivors struggle to stay alive.

Online

2012 PicThe official website opens with the first full trailer playing over a background that’s pulled from that trailer, the image of the USS John F. Kennedy being tossed on to the White House.

The first content area is “About the Film” and that leads off with a Synopsis that’s two sentences long and simply restates the premise – the world is ending but there are survivors, which doesn’t really make sense – without going any deeper. Cast and Crew profiles are here providing background on the players. Downloads also lives here, which is a bit unusual since it usually gets its own section. Wallpapers, Buddy Icons and a Twitter Background are available there. Finally there’s a Gallery – again usually a stand-alone area – that contains a batch of images you can view but, of course, not download.

Let’s talk about that Twitter background for a second. that’s the first time, unless I’m mistaken, I’ve seen that offered on a movie’s site. Offering that to people is obviously a way to get those excited about the movie to spread the word in an organic way. And it’s simply the latest iteration of a strategy that’s been around since 2005, when movie sites promoted MySpace skins you could add to your profile.

While it’s pretty low cost to create and offer that same sort of thing for Twitter it does fly in the face of how people are using Twitter, which is vastly different than how they used MySpace. Website usage for Twitter is, according to most metrics, relatively low compared to its actual user base. That’s because you can use Twitter through text messaging or by using any number of third-party applications. So there’s very little need among experienced or higher-level users to ever hit the website. Which means exposure to this is going to be fairly low since 2012 enthusiasts are a subset of a subset of a subset.

Again, there’s no downside in offering this for download – it probably took about 10 hours to create and test, maximum. But Twitter backgrounds are, in my view, better used as part of corporate branding campaigns, where a company wants to bring a certain look over to Twitter or make sure that multiple official accounts are branded consistently. Not that there’s much downside here – the low cost means any adoption is a win, more or less – but it’s not going to get the same impact as even the preceding MySpace skins used to.

Getting back to the website, the next section here is “Video.” There you’ll find the Teaser and first full Trailer, but not the last one, which is kind of odd. There’s also the music video for the song from Adam Lambert (more on this later) and a whole blog with multiple video entries on the movie’s visual effects. There’s also one called the 2012 Movie Experience, which walks through the alternate reality game that was played in the year or so leading up to the movie and which I’ll cover shortly.

The next section promotes the couple of “iPhone Apps” that took the user through their paces as they were asked to try and survive the end of the world. One of those apps was more about testing your survival skills while the other was more of a recreation of the movie’s storyline as you tried to outrun natural disasters. After that was a “Game” that tested your survival skill knowledge. And finally the “2012 Escape Sweepstakes” tests your ability to recall something from the movie’s trailer and enters you to win a cruise vacation.

The movie’s Facebook and MySpace pages contain trailers, photos and other information on the film and promote the iPhone games, ARG sites and other elements.

Going back to the ARG, listed on the site under the “The Experience” heading, there are a couple main hubs that then have some offshoots. While the entire game has been a little hard to follow – largely because there’s little actual interactivity from the audience – it has been wide-ranging.

The core component has been the Institute for Human Continuity, an organization that is working to make sure the human race survives the apocalyptic events of 2012. Balancing that is ThisIsTheEnd.com, the website for Charlie Frost, a paranoid conspiracy theorist who’s also convinced the end of the world is coming but who questions the IHC’s efforts. Finally there’s FarewellAtlantis, the official site for the book written by John Cusack’s character about the Mayan prophecy of 2012. The fact that he’s written a book about it kind of makes the surprise his character seems to experience over what’s happening seem less credible. Shouldn’t he have been more…prepared? Or at least aware?

In fact, as Liz Miller at NewTeeVee points out, the fact that these organizations exist at all seems to run counter to the logic that’s used within the movie itself. The ARG seems to posit that there are plenty of people on the ball about what’s happening and are preparing for it, while the movie says it’s just the secretive governments that are scrambling to put covert plans into motion.

Most all of these have YouTube channels, Twitter feeds, Facebook profiles and more in an effort to not only blanket the web in content but also create a narrative arc that leads up to the movie. The problem is that, as I alluded to earlier, there doesn’t seem to be a tremendous amount of interactivity in the program. You can follow the arc of the story but mainly passively, with very few points where you can play along.

Instead of trying to recap them all and failing I’ll simply share the “Experience” video that’s on the website, which does a decent job of all that, though it’s painful in how it alternates between playing the ARG straight and then shifting to tongue-in-cheek mode.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

2012 Pic 3With a movie of this size it shouldn’t be surprising that there was a ton of advertising done for it. TV spots have been almost unavoidable in the weeks leading up to release. Most all of them are shorter versions of the trailer and show off the same action sequences, including the flight between crumbling buildings and the manic drive as the street collapses behind the car. While I’m sure there are plenty who have seen these and been excited at the prospect of so many special effects being presented to them but in general these spots work far less well than the trailers, primarily because the shortened running time does the footage no favors.

A few weeks before release Fox engineered a massive “roadblock” strategy (Variety, 9/23/09) for the movie that put a two-minute clip of never-before-seen footage across most all TV networks, local stations, cable outlets and everywhere else during a block of prime-time programming, meaning you probably couldn’t escape it if you tried. The two-minute clip then teased the availability of an extended five-minute version that would be available afterward Comcast On Demand and Comcast’s Fancast.com streaming portal. (Disclosure: Voce, my employer, works with Comcast.net and I’m personally involved with that client. We did not, however, have any relationship with this promotion.)

Online advertising was also plentiful, mostly using the poster art, with some units incorporating the IHC alternate reality game as well.

Some of the poster art concepts also got repurposed as in-theater and other out-of-home ads.

Surprisingly I’m not seeing anything about any promotional partners.

Media and Publicity

2012 Pic 2The Institute for Human Continuity caused a lot of online chatter – especially on Twitter – as people found it and freaked out, only to have their friends then explain to them that it was all just part of a movie marketing campaign and the world wasn’t really ending in 2012, despite what the well-produced and slick-looking website was telling them. There were even some mainstream media stories like this one that dispelled the rumor that the IHC was real, which is some sort of testament to how good that site looked.

There was even some coverage of the campaign in the marketing press, with publications/sites like ClickZ writing up their reactions and recaps of the movie’s online campaign, ranging from the search engine components to the IHC “game” that was being played by the studio. And Brandfreak wrote up a piece about how Mayan elders were trying to shout into the wind about how 2012 isn’t actually when their calendar says the world will end, but their voice is pretty quite compared to a massive marketing campaign.

Countering the premise of the movie was also the subject of stories like this one in the LA Times (10/17/09) about how scientists were trying to calm the fears of an increasing number of people who were afraid they were going to be around for the end of the world and were having trouble dealing with that, including some people considering suicide to avoid that.

There was also considerable buzz to be gained by hooking up with “American Idol” runner-up Adam Lambert. The wannabe rock star contributed his first post-”Idol” song “Time for Miracles” to the soundtrack, with the song being teased on Moviefone and the subsequent video debuting initially on MySpace, part of that site’s attempt to become an entertainment portal.

There was even, as is the case with many similar movies, a cable TV special that dives into the premise of the film. These are barely-concealed marketing tactics and often come off as laughable and this looks to be no exception.

Put all together, the campaign became one of the most talked-about efforts (Los Angeles Times, 10/29/09) of mid-to-late 2009.

Overall

2012 TitleWell that’s quite a campaign, isn’t it?

Despite the impressive reach of the marketing – all those posters, all those websites, all those TV commercials – the campaign winds up feeling like the same sort of superficial spectacle the movie will likely be. It’s all glam that’s focused on the same five or six repeating images (USS Kennedy crashing into the White House, the Pacific sea board buckling into the ocean, etc) that convey the filmmaker’s and marketer’s hopes that seeing these moving images will be all the payoff the audience needs.

If you look back at the campaign for The Day After Tomorrow and use it as precedent, it’s unlikely that there’s anything substantive being held back from the audience in this marketing push. My guess is that after all the trailers, extended clips and other material we’ve now seen 98 percent of the movie’s major set-pieces. After all, what’s the use of hiding anything when the main thought process seems to be that you need those sequences to bring people in.

So from a marketing perspective you’d have to call the campaign a success. It’s unlikely to have been executed on the scale or with the tactics it was without a firm belief that it would appeal to the target audience, a group that is likely to be more impressed with spectacle than with substance anyway.

PICKING UP THE SPARE

  • 11/14/09: I got interviewed a couple weeks ago about 2012′s marketing and what I thought of it, specifically about how it seemed to be getting so much attention for honking people off and causing more than a few folks to mistakenly think the world was ending. That interview resulted in a quick quote from me in The Guardian UK that, interestingly enough, is actually about the marketing for The Love Guru, but still in the context of campaigns that were more engaging than the films they were supporting.
  • 11/16/09: That story also was used by Stephen Salto as the basis for a list of some movie marketing disasters that’s pretty funny.
  • 11/16/09: Todd Defren of SHIFT Communications also pulled in a quote from my column in his post about social movie marketing that’s worth a read.
  • 11/17/09: NASA was so inundated by requests for information on some of the movie’s supposed “facts” it setup a page simply for the purposes of debunking those items.

Movie Marketing Madness: (Untitled)

Untitled PosterIt goes without saying that the “serious” art world is and always has been one filled with healthy amounts of pretension. People take themselves seriously because they feel that what they’re creating is unique and important and expresses something that is by turns extremely personal and extremely universal to the world.

That serious, serious mindset, then, makes it the perfect target for a bit of satire. And that’s exactly what (Untitled) sets out to do.

The movie follows a young artist played by Adam Goldberg who specializes in sound. His creations are a mish-mash of various sounds, with his latest work ending with him kicking a metal bucket. That brings him to the attention of a comely young gallery owner played by Marley Shelton, who not only wants to help further his career but also has some interest in him romantically. As things go on, the discussion of what art is goes along with the discussion of what it means to be popular.

The Posters

The poster puts the film’s title treatment on the wall in the same manner as one of those cards placed next to a work of art with the name of the piece and the artist’s name on it, a clever concept that probably should have been expanded to the entire one-sheet. As it is that card itself becomes the art that Shelton’s character is looking at and admiring, while Goldberg (because he’s the more recognizable face, even if is is as Eddie from “Friends”) looks at the audience. Toward the bottom the copy “Everyones got an opinion” makes it clear we’re dealing with a discussion of what art “is,” even if that discussion is tongue-in-cheek and satirical.

The Trailers

The movie’s one trailer starts off with it being made clear that we’re in the world of experimental art, art that’s labeled as “important” and “revolutionary” by gasbags who have no idea what they’re talking about but want to sound like they’re on the cutting edge of what’s interesting.

Goldberg plays the central character in the movie and we see that he’s very much the struggling artist, someone who catches the eye of an influential gallery owner, a beautiful young woman (Shelton) who he winds up in bed with, probably something that’s going to provide some of the movie’s story. In between all that we get plenty of shots of artists who dabble in negative space, instillation pieces and other abstract areas like that. It’s pretty funny and certainly shows off the performances of Goldberg and Shelton and is the stronger for that.

Online

The official website for the movie is pretty cool in that frames – literally – the content in the manner of an art gallery. If you mouse around the picture frame that makes up the center of the site the image will move and content areas pop up, but all those sections are also listed below the frame.

“Overview” has a good, well, overview of the movie. It’s not exactly a plot synopsis though there’s a bit of that there. Instead it’s more of a setting of the stage for that story, providing a quick glimpse at some of the main characters and how they’re poised against and alongside each other.

You can find links to a handful of reviews and other write-ups about the movie under “Press” as well as a prompt to follow their updates on Facebook.

“Character Bios” has just that, a history of the characters themselves, though with an acknowledgement of the actors portraying them. The bio for Adrian Jacobs (Adam Goldberg), for instance lists his performance and recording credits to date.

“Videos” has the Trailer as well as three extended clips that show off some scenes from the movie that are pretty funny. There are 10 stills in the “Photo Gallery” that are unique and not just grabbed from the trailer.

Finally you’ll find press contact information and downloadable notes and the poster under “Contact.”

Moving off-domain, the movie’s Facebook page does indeed have links to quite a bit more press coverage of the film. Also there is the trailer, the poster and a still from the movie. The MySpace page just has a photo gallery, synopsis and the trailer.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Nothing that I’ve been privy to, not even a smattering of online ads.

Media and Publicity

There’s been a bit of coverage of the movie, but most of the buzz that I was able to find or which found me had to do with the release of the various marketing materials. There were some other items like a screening of footage from the movie at a San Francisco art studio but that was about it.

One story that stuck out was a New York Times piece (10/11/09) that examined how the studio was getting around the pricey advertising in New York and L.A. – the two markets most likely to have an audience interested in the movie’s theme – by reaching out to gallery owners and others who could host events and spread the buzz about it. That’s a great tactic that is emphasized quite a bit in discussions of how to market independent films; reaching

Overall

I really like this campaign for its simplicity and consistency. Everything seems to be hinged on that blank wall that the characters are looking at in the poster as that theme gets repeated throughout the campaign elements, sometimes overtly and sometimes just as a grace note. While it’s not a huge campaign I think it does manage to sell the movie very well, not only to those who live in the world portrayed in the film but also fans of light and funny satire.